September 2, 2010

Saints, Titans wrap up preseason in Nashville

The Saints and Titans played an exciting preseason finale that featured players who will be sweating this Saturday's roster cutdowns.

Injuries of note are to RB Chris Ivory (knee) and LB Jonathan Casillas (foot) of unknown severity. 

The Titans, who played their starters most of the first half, tied the Saints' backups at 13 at the half and won the game 27-24.

A host of Saint starters did not play, while the Titans started and played Vince Young the entire first quarter.  Drew Brees, Tracy Porter, Reggie Bush, Pierson Prioleau, Jabari Greer, Roman Harper, Darren Sharper, Heath Evans, Jonathan Vilma, Stanley Arnoux, Clint Ingram, Zach Strief, Jeremy Shockey, Will Smith, and Sedrick Ellis did not get on the field tonight. 

First round pick Patrick Robinson, in addition to starting a cornerback, was back to return the opening kickoff, which he kneeled.  Robinson would have a rough night.  On the first defensive series for the Titans, on the first snap, Robinson ran off the field with what could be a neck stinger injury.  He returned to the game on the next series in the first quarter and had some good moments in pass coverage.

A tripping and a pass interference penalty on the starting Titans defense helped the Saints get to within field goal range on their first drive. 

Robert Meachem was one of the few Saint starters who was force-fed the football on offense into the second quarter.  Meachem made a big catch, going up high on a long sideline pass from Ramsey on the second drive. Ramsey benefited from the Titans defender, who turned late and overran the throw.  Meachem stopped and went up high to make the catch near midfield, one of his five catches for 49 yards.

On the next play, Ramsey perfectly zipped a pass to Lance Moore running down the middle seam.  But penalties on backup offensive lineman Terrance Metcalf, holding and false start, killed that drive and forced a punt.

The Titans overcame a series of their own miscues, including a terrible drop by WR Kenny Britt and some inaccuracy by Vince Young, with a 47-yard run by Javon Ringer, who was brought down by Patrick Robinson at the nine yard line.  Ringer, on third down, evaded both safeties Reis and Jenkins into the secondary. Starting weakside linebacker Jonathan Casillas had a poor drive, getting overrun out of the play multiple times and also called for defensive holding.  Vince Young capped that drive with a seven-yard pass to TE Bo Scaife for the touchdown and the 7-3 lead.

Ramsey began to struggle against the starting Titan pass rush in the second quarter, constantly harried when he dropped back.  Ramsey hit three straight passes in the Saints' third possession, but was then sacked and pressured in to a short incompletion to kill that drive. 

The Saints took back the lead when rookie DE Junior Galette raced around right tackle and blocked Brett Kern's punt with room to spare.  Former LSU LB Harry Coleman corralled the bouncing ball downfield and into the end zone for the touchdown and the 10-7 lead.  On the ensuing kickoff, Galette raced down the field to stick the returner.

On the Titans' next drive however, Galette would commit a mortal sin of special teamers: jumping offsides on a 4th and 4 punt.  Later on that drive that he extended, he would cramp up badly in his right leg and need assistance off the field.  Galette injured himself when hanging on to the legs of Samkon Gado for a short gain rush up the middle.

DT Kendrick Clancy, signed this past week, saw his first action of the season as a Saint and made a good stuff against the run in the second quarter.

S Usama Young drew an egregious pass interference call in the second quarter, running over the back of the receiver on an under thrown deep ball.  Young elicited memories of the worst of the Tebucky Jones days with that play.  In the third, Young would go low and get posterized by a vaulting TE Jared Cook.  Not a good night for the former third round pick.

Robinson saw a lot of time covering former first round pick Kenny Britt, who had a dismal night with countless drops and even a false start.  Robinson had some good moments in pass coverage, but drew an illegal hands to the face penalty, which granted a first down, as the Titans drove down the field at the end of the first half.  Robinson also played on special teams as the Saints hope to find playing time for him in the regular season.

TE Jimmy Graham entered the game in the second quarter and got rocked on a couple pass attempts, but would become featured in the third quarter.  Graham caught a rollout pass from Daniel in the third, rumbled up the left sideline and absolutely pancaked rookie Alterraun Verner, driving him into the ground with a shoulder, when the defensive back tried to tackle him low.

QB Chase Daniel would start the second half for the Saints, and led the Saints to a game-tying field goal on his first drive of the third quarter.  His bobbled snap, picked-up-and throw to Graham for a 20-yard gain showed off his courage under fire.  He benefited from hard running from Betts and Wynn on that drive, who combined for 34 rushing yards.

But overall, the Saints' offenses struggled under both quarterbacks, as all four Titans quarterbacks found ample room to complete passes to open receivers. Even fourth string Titans QB Rusty Smith hit WR Dominique Edison for a 47-yard gainer that was almost a touchdown at CB Reggie Jones' expense.

TE Tyler Lorenzen probably lost his 53-man roster spot, unless the Saints keep four tight ends, with a false start on fourth and inches, plus Graham's good showing.

Galette returned to the game and in the fourth quarter was harassing Chris Simms at the expense of Troy Kropog, the former Tulane offensive tackle.  But late in the game at the goal line, Galette was chewed out on the sidelines for blowing his run defense assignment on Alvin Pearman's late touchdown run.  Galette had a rollercoaster night but clearly can contribute, will the Saints decide to keep him by Saturday?

Kern had his second punt blocked in the fourth quarter when the rookie Graham batted the ball and LB Anthony Waters picked up the ball and returned it inside the five.  Unfortunately, a fumble by WR Courtney Roby on an end around exchange set the Saints back to the Titan 18, then a false start by rookie LT Charles Brown and a sack on Daniel set up 4th and goal at the 23, and a 41-yard field goal by Garrett Hartley.

Chase Daniel and Adrian Arrington have made a habit of showing up big late in preseason games, and tonight was no exception.  With less than 3:30 left, the Saints moved down the field following a 33-yard kickoff return by Montez Billings in just two plays.  Daniel hit Arrington for a 31-yard catch, jump and dodge, then hit Arrington for the final 35 yards, wide open in the deep left quarter.  Daniel then hit Courtney Roby for the two point conversion, 27-22, finally providing some offensive output in the final minutes of the preseason finale.

Daniel got the ball back down by three with 1:47 left on the clock and one timeout remaining.  A pass interference kept Daniel alive after an incomplete pass on 4th and 7 with under one minute to play.  Daniel moved the Saints to spike the ball at Titan 16 with :17 left, but on 4th and 2 Daniel was intercepted in the end zone by LB Gerald McRath covering TE Jared Lorenzen. 

Ramsey outplayed Daniel tonight, the former Tulane QB completing 11/16 passes for 98 yards.  Daniel's late outburst found both a touchdown and an ill-advised interception, and he finished 10/18 for 137 yards. Nearly half of those yards game on two late completions to Arrington.

Garrett Hartley, who hit three field goals in Nashville, completed a perfect preseason, 8/8 on field goals and 12/12 on special teams.

Chris Reis called the coin toss for the Saints, a job that ex-Saint Troy Evans had in the Super Bowl.  Is that a sign that Reis has won a roster spot as a fourth or fifth safety and special teams captain?  Evans, last year's team captain, was released last week. Reis played most of the game tonight at safety.

Notes: FB Zak Keasey was injured but walked off the field on his own power... RB Chris Ivory went to the locker room with a knee injury early on, giving way to Ladell Betts and DeShawn Wynn, both of whom showed well for themselves.  Betts and Wynn each rushed seven times, for 38 and 31 yards respectively... CB Leigh Torrence suffered from leg cramps... Payton said that WLB Jonathan Casillas injured his foot but that "we'll know more tomorrow."

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